New Delhi: Ever since the failure in attracting bidders, Qatar Airways has said it would be interested to acquire the state-run beleaguered airline Air India with the condition that it comes without the ‘baggage’. The decision has come in the wake of the government’s plan to hold the national carrier’s divestment plans. Also Read - Post April 14, Central Govt Likely to Allow Flight Operations in Staggered Manner
Qatar Airways group CEO Akbar Al Baker reportedly said, “We would be interested in Air India if we had a strong partner. We need to have a very strong partner and we take the airline without the baggage.” Also Read - 'Proud of You': Pakistan ATC Lauds Air India For COVID-19 Relief Flights
Explaining on what the ‘baggage’ means, Baker said, “Look, it is not the debt that’s the baggage — it is the other functions that Air India carries out such as ground handling, engineering and things like that are. We would be interested only in the airline.” Also Read - Air India Halts All Bookings Till April 30, But What About Employees' Pay?
The government attempted to sell 76 per cent in Air India along with low-cost carrier international subsidiary Air India Express, and Air India Singapore Airport Terminal Services (AISATS). AISATS is a ground handling subsidiary of Air India with 50 per cent partnership from Singapore-based SATS.
Despite taking an extension from May 14, 2018, to May 31, the government failed to attract bidders the national carrier. The government had set a target of completing the sales by December 2018. However, the lack of potential bidders led the government to put the process on hold. Currently, the government is working on a proposal to fund the capital debt and losses incurred by the airline, with a working capital loan of about Rs 30,000 crore.
Regarding the bilateral flying entitlements between India and Qatar, Baker said, “Unfortunately, the civil aviation ministry has been unfair with Qatar Airways (in case of granting an increase in bilateral rights). While we were been restricted, everyone was getting bilaterals. First, there was a condition that Indian carriers need to utilise 80% of existing bilaterals. They have now reached 84%, still, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.” Baker also added that the Qatar Airways has requested for an increase in their flying rights to the government.